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Isaiah 25:6-9

Isaiah 25:6-9

Background to the Book of Isaiah

Historical: The following table gives an indication when the prophet Isaiah was preaching. It is worth noting that Hosea in the Northern kingdom of Israel and Micah in the Southern kingdom of Judah were in the same period.

Kings Israel

Kings of Judah

PROPHET

Kings of Assyria

Menahem 748 - 737

Uzziah 769 - 736
Jotham 756 - 741

Hosea 745 Israel
Isaiah 742 Judah
Micah 735 Judah

Tiglath-Pileser
745 - 727

Pekahiah 737 - 736
Pekah 735 - 732
Hoshea 731 - 723

Ahaz 741 - 715

Isaiah 742 - 701

Shalmanaser
727 - 722

Fall of Samaria
722-721

Hezekiah 715 - 687

Isaiah 742 - 701

Sargon 722 - 705

(The above dates are approximate because you will find slight variation among the scholars)

Isaiah, a prophet in the southern kingdom of Judah, had four major periods of prophecy between the years 742 -701 BCE. One of these times was when Ahaz was king of Judah and the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser had initiated a campaign from the north into Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel (738 BCE). In order to combat the Assyrian army Israel had formed a coalition with Syria against Assyria. However, Judah refused to join that coalition having the benefit of some distance from the direct challenge of Assyria. The kings of Syria (Rezin) and Israel (Pekah) sought to replace by force the Judean king, Ahaz, in the city of Jerusalem. Isaiah, sharing with Ahaz the words he heard from Yahweh, made clear that Ahaz was to trust in God alone and not to go down the path of forming coalitions with other countries whether, Syria, Israel or Assyria.

Isaiah was alive when the Assyrians over ran the Northern kingdom of Israel and deported the majority of the ten tribes of Israel to countries which Assyria had defeated and who were in vassaldom to Assyria. There is some reference to this event, but not as much comment as one would expect for such a devastating occurrence. Isaiah prophesied that Jerusalem was safe because the Lord dwelt there in the temple. This was affirmed when the Assyrians were besieging Jerusalem and the people were becoming desperate when suddenly the Assyrians departed in a hurry leaving Jerusalem safe for another 114 years. The Book of Isaiah records this as a miracle of the Lord (Isa 37:36-38).

Literary Background to the Book:
The whole book of Isaiah has been divided up into three main sections which appear to reflect preaching from different historical periods. Chapters 1-39 are often referred to as the prophecies from Isaiah of Jerusalem and cover the periods shown in the above table. Chapters 40-55 speak to the exiles, offering forgiveness and a strong encouragement to move back to Jerusalem. It contains some of the most beautiful language and a comprehensive theology of God as creator and redeemer. The remaining chapters 56-66 speak to a later post-exilic situation addressing quite different concerns to those expressed in Isa 40-55.

Isaiah 1-39 has some distinct sections within it. Isa 1 has a collection of oracles which appear to come from different periods of Isaiah's ministry. Isa 2-12 contains a collection of oracles mainly about Judah and Jerusalem, covering the threat from the Israel/Syria Coalition and the section ends with a psalm of deliverance. As each of the major prophets have a section with oracles against foreign nations so Isa 13-23 covers this topic. There are oracles against Babylon, Moab, Damascus, Egypt, Assyrian crisis and Tyre. We then find in Isa 24-27 a collection of oracles which are called the Isaiah Apocalypse and is reminiscent of material from a much later period in Israel's history. The remaining oracles cover further oracles on the Assyrian crisis and this section finishes with narratives about Isaiah. Isa 36-38 are almost identical with 2 Kings 18-19.

The Isaiah Scroll which was found at Qumran in the caves there (1948) and came from a time (250-68 BCE) before the Masoretes added vowels to the language is almost an exact copy of the Hebrew Text from which we work today. This testifies to the ability of the scribes who copied the Hebrew texts faithfully over the centuries and to the Masoretes who incorporated the vowels correctly (8-10 CE).
In the chapters leading up to the call of Isaiah (Isa 6) we have oracles which consist mainly of judgement and condemnation although Isa 2:1-4 speaks of the future as one of peace. We see in these earlier chapters two "Introductions" in Isa 1:1 and Isa 2:1 and it appears that we have additions and reworking of the Isaiah material. The condemnations are focused on the unjust behaviour of the people towards others in society and their abandonment of following in the ways of Yahweh. For these sins, the judgement is going be particularly harsh and the people will be overrun by a foreign nation.
Context of Isaiah 25:6-9:
This reading comes within the block of material known as 'The Isaiah Apocalypse' (Isa 24-27). It is immediately preceded by the oracles against the nations ( Isa 13-23) and is followed by a number of 'woe' oracles against Ephraim (Northern kingdom) and Judah which contain within them threats of dire punishment (Isa 28-33). Isa 34-35 contain further apocalyptic type material before the historical material of Isa 36-39, which forms a bridge to Isa 40-55. The view of the future within these chapters is universal in outlook and speaks of God's power in the cosmic as well as the earthly realm. We cannot say whether this material was in oral form originally or indeed, whether it circulated at an earlier time, but in its final form most scholars place it within the Persian period. That is, late fifth or early fourth century BCE. It displays a number of Jewish apocalyptic characteristic such as: Yahweh's dominion over all the world, the downfall of one's enemies, the participation of the whole cosmos in the coming drama, God's power over the realm of the dead, and the final triumphant gathering of the dispersed Israel (Barton: 92). The purpose of 'The Isaiah Apocalypse' placed deliberately after the oracles against the nations, because the author "believed that the crucial moment is world history was about to dawn" (Barton: 91). Isa 24:1-23 is "a prophetic announcement of Yahweh's punishment of the earth which focuses on the earth's destruction as a consequence of the violation of the 'eternal covenant' by its inhabitants" (Sweeney:312). Isa 25-27 concentrates on an announcement of Yahweh's blessing which concludes with the restoration of Israel to Jerusalem.

Insights/Message of Isa 25:6-9
Literary structure
: Isa 25:1-5 addresses God directly, "you art my God", acclaiming that God is indeed the person behind the destruction of the city and also the person who cares for the needy. In other words God both punishes and provides care. Isa 25:6 is connected by a waw consecutive and changes to a third person pronouncement on the new conditions after the "song of the ruthless is stilled" (Isa 25:5b). Another connection between the chapters is the reference to the place for the feast which is identified in Isa 24:23 as Mount Zion and Jerusalem. On this mountain Yahweh's blessing and feast in vv.6-8 is for 'all people' and Israel will be forgiven. The unit ends with a typical prophetic oracle ending, "for the Lord has spoken"which is unusual within apocalyptic genre. Isa 25:9-12 is framed as Israel's response and joined by connecting waw consecutive verbs, "and it will be said" (v.9), "and Moab will be trodden down" (v.10), "and he shall spread" (v.11). The city referred to here is Babylon according to Sweeney (336) and as part of the blessing Moab will be destroyed. It could be a reference to the destruction of Moab by the Babylonians in the 6th BCE. Other scholars suggest the city referred to in Isa 24-27 is Jerusalem (Seitz: 173). Indeed, it could be the chapters refer to the past destruction of Jerusalem and the future and impending destruction of Babylon. As the previous chapter uses imagery of the earth to describe the destruction so the images of fertility are used to describe the feast in Isa 25:6-8.


Theology:A new world order is proclaimed in which the salvation of Israel focuses on their restoration to Jerusalem. The prophecy of Isaiah in Isa 2:1-5 will be fulfilled now with the nations and Israel feasting together in Jerusalem (Wildberger: 525). Unlike the form of universalism spoken of in Isa 40-55 in which God' s power and might will be recognised by the nations, but fails to include them as equals: the implication in Isa 25:6-9 is that the nations will be equals at this feast, that is, except for Moab. In the Christian context at Easter, Jerusalem is the place at which Jesus is betrayed and put to death. God brings salvation through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus for all peoples who respond to that gift and grace. The Day of Pentecost sees many people responding to the Spirit of Christ and all peoples feast and rejoice together. The prophecy of Isa 2:1-5, proclaimed into a new situation in Isa 25 for the Jews in Babylon to give them hope and new life is claimed by Christians through what God has offered in Jesus Christ. A new offer of salvation which brings life and hope for all who see and respond.
Worship/Resources for Isa 25:6-9
Worship:
It would be helpful to have the communion elements on the table which represents the new feast inclusive for all peoples.
Resources: Commentaries


The Old Testament Guides (OTG) by Sheffield Academic Press are an excellent small resource which give many suggestions for readings on particular aspects in the book.

The New Interpreter's Bible is another very helpful resource and published in the late 1990's - 2002 is more up to date than some earlier works.

Barton, J. Isaiah 1-39. Old Testament Guides. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995.
Childs, Brevard. Isaiah. Old Testament Library. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.
Clements,R.E. Isaiah 1 - 39. NCB. Grand Rapids: Wm.Eerdmans, , 1980.
Hayes, J.H. & Isaiah, His Times and His Preaching, Abingdon,
Kaiser,O. Isaiah 1-12 (2nd ed), OTL, transl. J.Bowden, London: SCM Press, 1983.
Oswalt,J.N. The Book of Isaiah 1-39, Wm.Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1986.
Seitz,C.R. Isaiah 1-39, Interpretation, John Knox, Louisville, 1993.
Sweeney,M.A., Isaiah 1-39, FOTL, Wm.Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1996.
Tucker, Gene. 'The Book of Isaiah 1-39'. NIB. Vol VI. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001.
Watts,J.D.W. Isaiah1-33, Isaiah 34-66, WBC, Word Book, Waco, 1985, 1987.
Wildberger,H. Isaiah 1-12, transl.T.H.Trapp, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1991

The Dramatised Bible: ed. Michael Perry. London: Marshall Pickering: Bible Society, 1989

Web sites with helpful lectionary resources:

www.songsthatunite.org.au
:

http://www.liturgy.co.nz/
http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/
http://hwallace.unitingchurch.org.au/
http://mediacom.org.au/vmenu/index.php
http://www.laughingbird.net/html/home.php
http://www.liturgiesonline.com.au/
http://www.bible.org.

http://www.gbod.org/worship
http://www.lectionary.org
http://www.textweek.com
http://www.beswick.info/rclresources/
http://www.spirit-net.ca/sermon.html
http://www.churchpowerpoint.com
http://www.artbible.info/
http://www.wga.hu


 

 


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